Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Devils get solid win over Tigers

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils posted a solid nonconference win on Monday, beating Little Rock Central 3-1 at Dupree Park. The win was especially important because it was a bounce-back effort after a miserable outing last Friday at Spiro, Okla. The Spiro Bulldogs beat Jacksonville 10-0 on Friday in six innings during the Red Devils annual weekend trip to Baum Stadium to take in a Razorback baseball game.

“It was like night and day,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said Monday of how his team performed in its last two outings. “Producing runs has been our struggle all year. We’re going to play good defense and we’re going to throw strikes, but we didn’t even do that on Friday. We came back and played like we’re supposed to play today. I just wish we could’ve scored more. Three runs is going to be enough occasionally, but really three runs is not enough. We left a few opportunities to score out there. We’ve got to be more productive when we get runners on base.”

While run production has been weak this year, the Red Devil bats are swinging better than they have been. Recent games have seen the base hits increase in number, though runs scored has not picked up as much.

“We’re swinging it better than we were, there’s no doubt about that,” Burrows said. “We’ve got a lot of guys whose batting averages are going up. We’re just not seeing a lot more runs. What we have to do now is find a way to get those key base hits when guys are on. We’re definitely getting better, we’re just not getting the clutch hits yet.”

Kaleb Reeves was one player who was dialed in on Monday. Reeves finished 3 for 4 with a double off the wall down the right field line. That shot scored Derek St. Clair, who had walked with one out and stolen second base, and gave the Red Devils a 2-1 lead in the third inning.

Jacksonville left two runners in scoring position in the fourth inning, but added a run in the fifth on a strange play. St. Clair, Reeves and Blake Perry hit consecutive, one-out singles to load the bases. Greg Jones then popped up to second base.

The ball was just beyond the infield dirt, and the Tiger second baseman let it drop in front of him. No clear signal of the infield fly rule was given by the umpires, creating uncertainty among the base runners whether the rule was in effect. St. Clair broke for home and got caught in a rundown, but scored after an errant throw during the chase.

Central protested that it should have been a force out at home, but the umpire ruled it an infield fly, which means all force-outs are negated.

It was the second time in as many innings that a coach had words for the field umpire. Reeves was called out on a pick-off throw to second base after his double, a play in which he easily beat the throw back to the bag.

St. Clair started on the mound and got the win in three innings of work. He gave up two hits and one run. James Tucker threw the fourth and fifth innings, giving up four hits but working his way out a tight jam in the fourth.

Reeves took the mound for the final two innings, giving up just one hit.

Jacksonville (9-11, 7-3) hosts Mills in a 5A-Central doubleheader on Thursday at Dupree Park.